Chipola College, Tallahassee Community College, and nonmetropolitan industry leaders join with the Florida State University Information Use Management and Policy Institute and School of Library and Information Studies to examine the educational and career pathways of information technology (IT) technicians supporting broadband deployment in communities in Northwest Florida. The mixed methods research project investigates the region's broadband staffing needs to identify the roles of broadband technicians, education needed to develop the knowledge and skills to be successful in these roles, and the process to sustain long-lasting partnerships between educational and industry stakeholders. The pervasive nature of broadband indicates a need for IT/broadband workers who can handle a broad range of issues associated with the needs of commerce and communities in the region. In addition, the study conceptualizes and establishes the use of the term, nonmetropolitan, to describe communities that are adjacent to metro or urban areas and comprise a population of both rural and urban residents. The study deliverables include 1) a gap analysis that supports curriculum development; 2) creation of a network of nonmetropolitan stakeholders that includes employers, industries, community institutions, and technician educators; 3) an iterative curriculum/labor needs assessment that ensures depth and breadth of findings; 4) multiple faculty/industry workshops that deliver recommendations and solicit faculty/industry review of research findings; and 5) an array of activities that supports broad dissemination of the findings to inform local educators and industry, and engage all stakeholders in ongoing discussion. The research study contributes to a growing, though limited body of knowledge on the intersecting needs of IT technicians, educators, and employers in broadband technologies.
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